The Anambas Cruise
3 – 17 August 2022
(The article is written only from the views from Skybird)
3 August; the day began with us reporting to the Changi Point Ferry Terminal (CPFT) for the immigration process. The opening of the CPFT for immigration clearance has been a gift to us, the process was as smooth as it can be. It was only about a week before our trip where we were supposed to have our immigration done at the One15 Marina. This would have been an extreme inconvenience to us. However, after several meetings with the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA), they made the decision to open CPFT to facilitate immigration clearance for clubs on this side of the island; namely the SAFYC, Punggol Marina and Changi Sailing Club.
We left our mooring by 1045hrs and were on our way to our 2-week adventure to the Anambas Islands; our first stop would be Nongsa Point Marina, NPM. With a steady breeze and a strong outgoing tide, it took us only about two and a half hours to get from CSC to NPM.
The idea to sail to the Anambas was mooted during one of our many beer-talks at the club. It was one of those, I should do it someday kind of talk. Well, I must thank Justin from Invictus who had pushed us to seriously plan for the trip. As the day’s past, words got around and soon we were joined by Exodus, Birregurra, Amideau, Andiamo and SDF, who unfortunately had to withdraw from the trip.
At NPM, we spent the afternoon lazing around at the boat as we waited to be cleared by the Customs and Immigration. The latest requirement was for us to be at NPM for at least 2 days for the immigration process. As also required, we flew the Indonesian flag (courtesy flag), the Q over N (customs, immigration & quarantine).
It was nice sailing into NPM as we were greeted by the familiar staff at the marina. Good ole Acok was there with his ever-smiling face and willingly waiting to render assistance. It was also good to catch with Prakash, who is recovering from some medical issues.
4 August; it was pleasant waking up in a marina, our first morning away from the comforts of home. After 2 years of being confined due to the Covid pandemic, just being at NPM felt like being a bird out of its cage. The day went by without much happening as we all prepared for the 0700hr start for our sail to the Anambas.
5 August; up by 0400hr, we made a quick breakfast of bacon and eggs and were soon ready to cast off. We had planned to break the journey into two legs; first stop was Pulau Airabu and then to Terempah the next day.
As we left the marina, the breeze quickly filled in and blew to a comfortable 8 to 10 knots on our beam. Our first target was Horsburgh Lighthouse which we planned to keep well to our port. The breeze held on for the rest of the day and even into the earlier part after sunset. We were doing between 6 to 7 knots on the average. As it got darker, we decided to put in a reef on the mainsail. The process of reefing was quite an excitement by itself. Being shorthanded and in a near pitch-dark condition, didn’t help the process much. Well, the three of us managed to get things under control and we were soon back on track. The rest of the night wasn’t fantastic and the wind died on us and we bobbed around for at least an hour before turning on the engine.
6 August; it was in the early hours before we caught sight of the other three sailboats approaching from the rear. They had left the marina slightly later and had finally caught up with us. By then, the smallest light of the new day had allowed us to see the blurred shape of an island in the distance. Pulau Repong, a smallish rock face was the first island in our pathway. As the horizon brightened, so did the sight of Pulau Bawah and further back was Pulau Airabu which was still some 8 hours away.
Pulau Bawah would have been a nice first stop but we were told that there were some restrictions and hefty charges so we decided to give it a miss. By now the winds had freshened again as we continued our passage to Airabu. After receiving a call from Birregurra, we both decided to take a shorter route through a very narrow and shallow passage as we made our way towards our intended anchorage. The depth went from 51m down to 2.8m in less than two minutes. It was quite scary but the sight was stunning. Beautiful coral heads were clearly visible. It would have been a dream spot if we could anchor among the coral reef but that wouldn’t have been a smart thing to do. Thinking back, I doubt I would ever try doing this stunt again, too risky for keelboats.
It was 1630hrs when we anchored off at the Southeastern corner of Airabu; the large bay easily accommodated all five boats. We had the bay to ourselves and everyone settled in quickly and enjoyed the well-deserved rest after the 30 odd hours of sailing.
7 August; Basil in Birregurra had to leave early to make his way to Pulau Jemaja as he had planned to rendezvous with Luke who had made arrangements to fly in to meet up. That’s being a diehard for you, fly into the Anambas just to sail back to Singapore.
Having soaked in the beauty of the surrounding, the rest of us decided to stay at the anchorage for another day and spent most of the afternoon snorkeling and simply chilling.
8 August; we weighed anchor at 0800hrs for our final leg to Terempah. After weighing anchor, I had issues with the halyard. I couldn’t fully hoist my mains and had to settle for it to be in the first reef position. It was very annoying as the winds were great and hitting us on our stern quarter which made easy sailing. By the time we arrived at the Terempah port, Amideau and Andiamo had already found a decent spot to anchor for the night. We, on the other hand, sailed straight to the next bay at Tanjong Tebu where the Anambas Resort was located. The lady owner, who was kind of expecting us, shouted some instructions to us and we were soon anchored in 25m of water. It was a very sheltered corner, so I decided to only put out 40m of chain. The resort where we checked in was very basic but the location and surroundings made up of everything.
Exodus also had issues with his engine and had to sail into the anchorage; the strong currents between the islands of Siantan and Matak did not help matters. Oh yes, just for info, Terempah is the main town on the island of Siantan and that is where the port and administrative offices are located.
9 August; we rented three motorbikes and had also hired a guide to leads us to the Port Authority to do the proper check-in into Terempah. After some minutes of paper pushing, we were off to a guided tour around the outskirts of the island. We treated ourselves to fresh coconut juice at the first stop, sitting under the shade of the roadside stall. After another short ride, we were back in town for lunch at a local food stall. It was unfortunate that we had to turn down the offer from our guide to continue with more sightseeing. We had decided to head back to the resort as we felt that it was more important for us to sort out the issues that we have on our boats.
I was fortunate that the problem I that with my halyard had undone by itself. I suspected that there might have been a slight twist among the halyards and had caused it to jam. The problem on Exodus was a little more complex as they had a choked fuel line. After much trial and errors, they manage to fix the problem. By then, three days had passed and the group had generally lost the mood to sail to other islands and we agreed to spend another day at the resort before sailing back to Airabu.
12 August; after having spent the afternoon of the 11th preparing for the sail back, we got up early the next day and was off the hook by 0700hrs for the sail to Airabu. This round the light winds were on the nose and we also had the currents against us. We turned on the engine and did a fair bit of motor sailing.
Birregurra, who had time constrain, left for Singapore the day before while Amideau and Andiamo left on the same morning as we did. They, like Birregurra, had planned to sail direct to Singapore while we chose to sail back to NPM.
Approaching the anchorage at Airabu, we decided to enter into another bay. It was a good call as we found that this area had better spots for anchoring, 12m depth and sandy bottom, making it ideal for anchoring. Not only was the anchorage good, we were treated to a large area of untouched marine world. The coral reef was in abundance and it was live. We only wished that we had more time to explore the area. Time flies when you’re having a good time.
13 August; expecting to sail against a strong current, we pushed off at 1500hrs and had planned to maintain a minimum 4-knot boat speed for the journey back to NPM. This would have brought us back mid-day on the 15th. As we left the anchorage, the weather turned for the worst and the sky were turning dark and lightening flashing close by.
Not wanting to be caught by the weather, we again relied on our engine and gunned forward to distant ourselves from the ensuing storm. This we did but when nightfall came, our expectation of a bright moonlit night was dashed; we were surrounded by darkness. And for a long while, we had to rely on our instruments for guidance. You couldn’t see anything pass on navigation lights at the bow, sheer darkness, not a single star had appeared. This went on for most of the night; we were occasionally blessed by an opening in the sky which allow the ray of moonlight to only brighten the night for just a short spell which gave us some comfort.
14 August; seeing the first ray of the morning was a very welcoming sight. Kim Soon and I did an hour on and an hour off shift the night before and allowed Deborah to rest. But when morning came, she was quickly placed on the helm and we both took our well-deserved rest. As the winds weren’t fantastic, we continued running our engine. The day went by uneventfully and the winds remained light. We had just passed Horsburgh Lighthouse to our starboard before the last ray of the day disappeared in the horizon. We now realized that we have mess up our plans for our arrival to NPM. The winds had picked up and by no we were trucking along in another night of darkness. The encounter with rows of fishing floats kept us on our toes as we weren’t sure if they were floating nets or otherwise. A constant exchange of flashlights between the fishermen and us kept us well apart from one another.
It was approximately 2130hrs before we arrive at the entry to NPM. The poor visibility and the lights from the mega yacht moored just at the pontoon by the entrance had affected our visibility. The experience wasn’t pleasant, we were probably not used to the surroundings or may be better navigation lights could be installed to guide us through. Anyhow, all went well and we were received by the security team at the marina; much thanks to Prakash who had made the necessary arrangements for us. With the boat secured, we took our well-deserved hot shower at the marina before calling it a night, after a beer of course.
15 August; spent a lazy day at the marina, cleaning the boat and spending some money at the bar in the evening. We had also decided to spend another night at NPM as we were ahead of schedule.
16 August; Joseph and I were up early; we met the owner of the Tamarind Golf Club at the bar the night before and were convinced to play a round. With rented clubs and bought gloves; our deck shoes were what we had and wasn’t helpful on the wet grass. However, we had a fun and enjoyable round of golf. Not a bad way to end the trip.
17 August; it was fortunate that we could arrange for our papers to be ready by late on the 16th, it would have been impossible to get it done on the 17th as it was Indonesia’s Independence Day. A solemn ceremony was held early in the morning at the marina. Not wanting to be of any annoyance, we quietly departed at 1000hrs. With headsails only, we motor sailed back to CSC. The arrival procedures were as smooth as the departure. Thumbs up to ICA.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to meet up with the rest of the other sailors who had journeyed long, but I’m sure everyone had their own little fun and adventure. If this is of interest to anyone, I’m sure the club can organise another trip to the Anambas next year.